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Orange Bowl notebook: Iowa bracing for Tech's one-man wrecking crew
Georgia Tech defensive end Derrick Morgan laughs with teammates as they prepare for football practice earlier this week at Nova University in Davie, Fla. Georgia Tech plays Iowa in the Orange Bowl on Tuesday. - photo by Hans Deryk

Georgia Tech vs. Iowa

When: 8 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Miami, Fla.
TV, radio: FOX; 99.3-FM,
Web site:

When Georgia Tech linebacker Sedric Griffin was asked about playing with All-American defensive end Derrick Morgan, Griffin smiled and shook his head.

“Man, I have seen him do some things I have never seen anyone do,” Griffin said. “On one play he split a double team and went through a running back to get a sack. It was crazy.”

Morgan, a 6-foot-4, 272-pound junior, has 12.5 sacks and 18 tackles for loss, and is the ACC’s Defensive Player of the Year. Iowa offensive coordinator Ken O’Keefe said Morgan “can be a one-man wrecking crew.” He added that calling formations specifically designed to neutralize Morgan can be tricky since he moves around so much.

Most of the time, Morgan plays with a hand on the ground over right tackle. He’ll also line up over the left side, and the Hawkeyes expect to see him stand up as an inside linebacker as well in Tuesday’s Orange Bowl.

“Whoever he’s over, he’s going to be a problem,” said junior Bryan Bulaga, the Big Ten’s Offensive Lineman of the Year.

“Phenomenal player. He’s probably the best I’ll have seen this year. He’s probably the best a lot of guys see every year. There are not many flaws to his game. ... He’s big, he’s fast, he has a great motor. He’s relentless. (Against) the run he’s very good. There’s a lot to his game to like. He brings a lot of different pass rush moves.”

NFL scouts agree, and the Orange Bowl probably will be Morgan’s final college game since he is a projected first-round pick. Morgan isn’t talking about his future beyond Tuesday, focusing on Iowa’s offensive line instead.

“They are a pretty disciplined group with good technique,” Morgan said.

Last hurrah?
A couple of the players whom Morgan will directly oppose Tuesday may also be playing their final collegiate game. Bulaga is a projected late first-rounder. If he stays for his senior season, he could position himself to be a top-five pick and really cash in.

“You have to do what’s best for you,” Bulaga said. “After the game we’ll see. You have to come out of the game injury-free to even consider it. You have to get through the game, you have to play well, you have to win the game. ... Coach (Kirk) Ferentz and my family have already had this talk a couple of times. We have an idea what’s going on. We’re just waiting until after the game to get everything out there.”

The NCAA will have a hand in determining whether Dace Richardson’s Iowa career will end Tuesday. Richardson is a fifth-year senior, but he missed all but a fraction of the Michigan State game and the four that followed when he suffered a broken bone in his left leg. The 6-6, 305-pound Richardson, who started at left and right guard and one game at right tackle in 2009, is applying for a sixth year of eligibility. He redshirted as a junior in 2008 due to a chronic knee problem that required multiple surgeries.

“After we appeal for it we’ll see what happens,” said Richardson, who may not start but is expected to play Tuesday.  “Right now I’m 50-50 on which way I want to go. ...You never know what (the NCAA) might choose. If they give me that option I’ll really think about it. If I don’t get it I guess I’ll just try the next level.”

Stopping the run
While Morgan has been dominant, Georgia Tech’s defense has been porous at times.

The major emphasis is on run defense, given that in its last two games opponents rushed for an average of 331 yards. The

Hawkeyes rushing attack has been anything but imposing, ranking 103rd out of 120 Division I-A teams (109.4 yards per game).

“They are going to come out and pound us with the run,” predicted Tech linebacker Brad Jefferson. “But we will be ready for that.”
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